Photo courtesy Geneal Palmer: Santa spreads holiday cheer at a past Lions Club senior dinner event.
Photo courtesy Geneal Palmer: Santa spreads holiday cheer at a past Lions Club senior dinner event.

Lions Clubs International, an international non-political service organization established in Chicago in 1917 and locally in Eatonville in 1938, is well-known for its many service projects in local communities as well as worldwide, including vision screening, eyeglass recycling, type 2 diabetes screening and youth camps.

In Eatonville, the 45-member strong Lions Club is carrying on during the COVID-19 pandemic to help members of the community, longtime Lion Geneal Palmer said.

“It (the pandemic) has surely put limits on what we can do, but we are still here and still helping,” Palmer said.

In Eatonville, the Lions Club partners with other entities like the local telephone service to decorate light poles in town for the holiday season and “Dollars for Scholars,” which raises funds for student scholarships. In addition, the club sponsors the Boy Scouts, paying their way to attend the national convention.

They also offer a rental service supplying tents, canopies, tables and chairs.

Several Lions Club-sponsored and co-sponsored events, such as the annual senior citizens holiday dinner, had to be canceled this year due to pandemic restrictions.

“With the dinner, we considered offering takeout service since we wouldn’t be allowed to have the event with people dining together, but the thought of taking business away from local restaurants who are trying to stay afloat didn’t appeal to us,” Palmer said. “The event was more about the social gathering than the food anyway. To cancel it this year meant keeping people safe, and that’s the most important thing we can do.”

Other annual events, like the town’s Halloween festival for kids and the three-day arts festival, were deemed too dangerous for public safety and had to be canceled as well.

“This year is the first year since 1972 that we had to cancel the arts festival,” Palmer lamented. “It is our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

The Lions Club was able to open its yearly fireworks stand, however, and members hope to offer children the use of the fish pond at Smallwood Park the Thursday and Friday before the opening day of fishing season this year.

Another traditional Lions Club program, the Senior Send-Off, had to be modified because of the pandemic, but the club still provided two seniors in high school with scholarships. Both Gavin Cole and Claire Golding were awarded $2,000 scholarships by the civic organization.

The club also recently welcomed a new director, Lisa Rasmussen, and with the new leadership comes fresh new ideas.

“We haven't been able to hold our regular meetings, so we have been meeting using the Zoom application,” Palmer said. “Luckily, I have grandkids who have helped me with that technology.”

Palmer said the club was able to make use of its connections to local agencies to offer even more help to one local family recently.

“I got a phone call from a mother who was homeless with a special needs child,” Palmer said. “She had heard of the glasses recycling program we offer, and we were able to provide her with a new pair. She mentioned something during the phone call about really missing having somewhere for the family to shower. Well, I know the guy who takes care of the middle school, and I knew there were showers there, and I called him. He was able to arrange it for the family to be able to bathe there when they need to, so that was a really rewarding situation.”

Today’s Lions Club International makes it easier than ever for potential members to join with “Lions Your Way,” which offers the standard Lions Club night meetings and membership as well as the Daybreak Lions Club in Eatonville, which meets during the day.

Palmer said there are even ways to offer membership to parents of small children, who may be prevented from attending meetings due to child care availability.

“These members hold mini-meetings in their homes, allowing their children to play together while they meet,” she said.

The Eatonville club also keeps members informed during the pandemic by using a calling post, which sends out group phone messages and emails.

When everything goes back to normal as the pandemic restrictions subside, Palmer looks forward to resuming the club’s regular meetings, which take place at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays each month at 123 Rainier Ave. N. The Daybreak Lions Club meets at 7:30 a.m. the first and third Wednesday monthly at 305 Center St., Eatonville.

For more information about Eatonville’s Lions Club, contact Palmer at 360-832-4912 or 253-686-5459, or visit www.lionsclubs.org for national club information.

Readers wishing to donate used eyeglasses to the club’s recycling program may take their donations to Kirk’s Pharmacy in Eatonville.